Tag Archives: George Washington Bridge

The Original Entrance To The George Washington Bridge On The New York Side

The George Washington Bridge as seen from 179th Street – 1934

George Washington Bridge from Manhattan 1934

This is the way the George Washington Bridge looked in 1934, three years after opening in 1931 from the New York side. The changes that have occurred in the past 80 years are abundant. This view was photographed from between West 178th and 179th Streets.

Before finding this photograph I had always wondered what the George Washington Bridge looked like before several changes occurred to the original layout. The construction of the Cross Bronx Expressway / Alexander Hamilton Bridge connection; the addition of the lower level to the bridge; and the Port Authority bus depot; all in the early 1960s, changed the original roadway approach and exit configuration.

The light traffic is indicative of the era. A total of 6,148,876 vehicles crossed the bridge in 1934. Today over 114 million vehicles make the crossing.

What else has changed? Continue reading

The Day A Plane Landed On The George Washington Bridge

50 Years Ago Today – How Philip Ippolito Landed His Airplane On The George Washington Bridge

Philip Ippolito and passenger Joseph Brennan Jr. walked away from this emergency plane landing on the George Washington Bridge December 26, 1965. photo: Life Magazine

Philip Ippolito and passenger Joseph Brennan Jr. made an emergency landing on the George Washington Bridge, December 26, 1965. photo: Life Magazine

The world was amazed in 2009 when Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger landed his hobbled jetliner on the Hudson River without any loss of life. It was an incredible feat of savvy piloting.

A forgotten episode of amazing aeronautical maneuvering occurred 50 years ago when on Sunday, December 26, 1965, 19-year-old Philip Ippolito of the Bronx, made a successful emergency landing on the top level of the George Washington Bridge.

Flight path of Philip Ippolito - illustration New York Times

Flight path of Philip Ippolito 1: Plane embarked 2: engine problems 3: GW Bridge – illustration New York Times

Ippolito had rented a 34 foot wide Aeronca Champion single prop plane for $10 per hour for two hours from Ramapo Valley Airport in Spring Valley, NY. He planned on a morning joy ride to visit a former flight instructor friend in Red Bank, NJ. Along with Ippolito was a friend, passenger, Joseph F. Brennan Jr., 39. The pair departed from Spring Valley at 9 a.m.

About 20 minutes into the flight at an altitude of 3,100 feet over Manhattan, the engine began to falter. Ippolito kept trying to revive the engine but it was not working. With the plane losing altitude rapidly and the engine sputtering, Ippolito looked over the icy Hudson River and thought of trying to make a water landing. He asked Brennan if he could swim to which Brennan replied, “Not a stroke.”

Ippolito quickly thought about his options on where to make an emergency landing. The New Jersey Meadowlands, which Ippolito thought would be too soft and swampy from recent rain and the George Washington Bridge looming a couple of miles ahead to the north with relatively light traffic. With no time to lose, Ippolito turned the plane around and headed for the bridge. Continue reading

Old New York in Postcards #11 – Unbuilt New York

Some Interesting Things Around New York that Were Never Built

West Jersey BridgeNew York City: plans are made, plans are scrapped. We’ve dug up postcards of unbuilt projects, variations of existing structures or other anomalies such as a lawn in front of the main branch of the New York Public Library.

The postcard seen here is the West Jersey Bridge which predates the George Washington Bridge by a few years. In the 1880’s Gustav Lindenthal came up with a design for a large train bridge for the Pennsylvania Railroad that would have connected Manhattan at 23rd Street with New Jersey. The railroad opted for tunnels instead of a bridge. Lindenthal had a long career in bridge engineering supervising the building of the Queensboro and Hell Gate Bridges.

Lindenthal’s plans for the West Jersey Bridge were drawn up in 1920. The West Jersey Bridge would have had 20 lanes of traffic on its upper deck and a dozen on the lower level.  Pedestrian walkways were to be part of the gargantuan bridge which would have stretched from Weehawken, NJ to 57th Street in Manhattan. The master plan included cutting a highway across Manhattan to the Queensboro Bridge. The West Jersey Bridge was never built. Instead, Lindenthal’s protege Othmar Ammann designed the George Washington Bridge which was constructed further north at 177th Street.

Hudson River BridgeWhich brings us to something we covered previously: that the George Washington Bridge was originally supposed to have its towers sheathed in stone. Architect Cass Gilbert’s stone arches were depicted in various early drawings and plans for the Hudson River Bridge before it was given the name that it is known by today: the George Washington Bridge.

Williamsburg BridgeWith this illustration of the Williamsburg Bridge completed in 1903, the artist took some liberties in showing the completed towers.  On the top of each of the towers we see what appear to be windowed rooms, possibly for observation or just decoration. They were never built.

Manhattan Bridge Approach

The Manhattan Bridge completed in 1909 is accurately shown in this postcard, but the entrance certainly is not something that came to fruition. The Manhattan Bridge approach as seen here is a veritable garden in a park-like atmosphere with neatly pruned trees, shaped into squares  surrounding the entrance way.

Hudson Fulton Bridge 1Hendrick Hudson River Bridge 2

1955 photograph of current Henry Hudson Bridge

1955 photograph of current Henry Hudson Bridge

For the Hudson-Fulton celebration of 1909 there were various proposals to build a bridge connecting upper Manhattan with the Bronx. Known as The Hendrick Hudson Memorial Bridge or Hudson-Fulton Memorial Bridge, both designs featured elegant approaches for an arch bridge over Spuyten Duyvil. Continue reading

Proposed Bridges Of New York City In 1911

In 1911 The Proposed McCarren Bridge Was To Replace The “Old” Brooklyn Bridge So It Could Be Reconstructed

Existing and Proposed Bridges New York City 1911

Existing & proposed bridges New York City 1911 – note the four lower Manhattan bridges instead of three (click to enlarge)

From the New York Tribune of January 1, 1911 comes this illustration showing New York City with its existing bridges and some proposed new ones.

Sandwiched very tightly between the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge  connecting lower Manhattan with Brooklyn, is a proposed new bridge which was to be called the McCarren Bridge named after “Long Pat” McCarren (1847-1909) a state senator who was Brooklyn’s Democratic political boss during the late 1800’s.

Once the proposed McCarren Bridge became a reality, city engineers planned to close and rebuild the Brooklyn Bridge.  The engineers feared that the increase in heavy traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge would necessitate additional strength being added, otherwise a support or cable might give way causing a horrible catastrophe.  Borings were even made at the site, but the McCarren Bridge was never built.

Other proposed bridges in the illustration show the Hell Gate Bridge which was begun in 1912 and completed in 1916.

Further north on the Harlem River connecting upper Manhattan with the Bronx is another proposed bridge that was never built nestled between the University Heights/West 207th Street Bridge and Washington Bridge. This bridge would have been located at 177th Street in the Bronx and was to be called The Morris Heights Bridge. Continue reading

The Lincoln Tunnel Opens And “Mr. First” Is There – December 22, 1937

Omero C. Catan, Known As “Mr. First” Waits To Be First Through The New Lincoln Tunnel

Omero C Catan Lincoln Tunnel 1st through 12 21 1937

When he was 13-years-old in 1928, Omero C. Catan heard a story from a family friend who was one of the first people to cross the Brooklyn Bridge when it opened in 1883. It was then that Omero decided that being first would be something fun to do as a hobby.

Soon after Catan went down to Lakehurst, NJ from his home in Greenwich, CT to become the first American to tour the famous airship, Graf Zeppelin.

The Miami New Times 1995 profile of Omero and his brother Michael reported, “after that initial success, there was no stopping him.”

Catan paid the first toll on the George Washington Bridge linking New York and New Jersey (October 25, 1931). He was the first to buy a token on the Eighth Avenue subway (September 10, 1932). He was the first paying customer to skate on the Rockefeller Plaza ice rink (December 25, 1936).  After he proposed marriage to stenographer Jeanne Tobolka, he was to receive the first wedding license of 1939. He was the first to put a coin in a New York City parking meter (Sept. 19, 1951). He was the first to drive over the Tappan Zee Bridge (December 15, 1955).

In all Catan was “first” 537 times, acquiring the sobriquet “Mr. First”.

At 4 a.m. on December 22, 1937 the lights turned green and Omero Catan and George Horn started driving through the new Lincoln Tunnel from opposite sides.

According to the New York Times, Catan whose car had been parked Continue reading

Things You Didn’t Know About The George Washington Bridge

The George Washington Bridge Was Going To Have Its Steel Towers Covered In Stone

George Washington Bridge Under Construction circa 1930

The George Washington Bridge seen here during construction in 1930, was built from 1927 until 1931. Architect Cass Gilbert intended its towers to be sheathed in stone. Still visible on the towers are the hooks for which the stone was to be attached.

George Washington Bridge Original Design

Proposed Original Design With Stone Arches

It was decided for practical reasons that the bridge towers did not need to be encased in stone. The Depression hit soon after construction started and the cost of procuring and installing the stone would have been prohibitive. The designers and builders reevaluated the whole look of the bridge and felt that there was a natural beauty in showing the function through the form of the exposed naked steel.

The bridge’s chief designer and engineer Othmar Ammann had incredible foresight. Though the bridge had only one level when originally constructed, the design he came up with allowed for the eventual addition of a lower level which was added in 1962. This increased the number of traffic lanes from eight to fourteen. Morning and evening rush hours can create delays of one hour or longer. Can you imagine what the delays would be like without the second deck?

12 other interesting facts about the George Washington Bridge:

1. When completed in 1931 the George Washington was the longest suspension bridge in the world. It was eventually displaced as the longest bridge by San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge in 1937.

2. The bridge was completed eight months ahead of schedule and under budget.

3. To finance the bridge, the states of New York and New Jersey each advanced $5 million and $50 million in bonds were issued.

4. Tolls were set to pay off the bonds, which would mature serially starting in 1953. It was assumed after paying off the bond holders, the tolls would eventually be reduced or even eliminated. (Hah!) Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #18

Henry Hudson Parkway and Riverside Park December 6, 1937

Photo © Ben Heller (Underwood & Underwood)

Looking north from 72nd Street on December 6 , 1937 we see the newly opened stretch of The Henry Hudson Parkway.

Headed by Robert Moses, the West Side Improvement project was built between 1934 and 1937. One of the main parts of the improvement, was the connection of The West Side Express Highway to The Henry Hudson Parkway.

The 6.7 mile parkway stretch from 72nd to Dyckman Streets cost $23,340,000, and was opened to the public on October 12, 1937.  This portion of roadway connected to the 4.5 miles of the parkway from Dyckman Street in Manhattan to near Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx that was opened on December 12, 1936.

A motorist could now drive uninterrupted from Canal Street on the West Side Highway in lower Manhattan through the Henry Hudson Parkway, all the way to the city line at Westchester to the Saw Mill River Parkway in about twenty minutes.  As you can see, traffic was not a problem then, as few New Yorker’s owned automobiles.

The city also created 78 acres of play area with children’s playgrounds, ball fields and tennis courts.  A total of 132 acres of new park land was created by filling land under water and covering railroad tracks.

In the photograph, you can see the boat basin at 79th Street is under construction. In the background is the single-decked George Washington Bridge. The lower level of the bridge was added in 1962.